THE MAGAZINE

What Is Homeland Security ?

By Sherry L. Harowitz

Two years and nine months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, it might seem odd to ask what homeland security is, but a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) notes that there is still confusion and disagreement about what the topic encompasses, which makes tracking spending and assessing progress difficult. In an effort to shed some light on the issue, the CBO’s report on federal funding for homeland security divides homeland security initiatives into six categories: intelligence and warning, border and transportation security, domestic counterterrorism, protection of critical infrastructure and key assets, and defense against catastrophic threats. The CBO estimates that a total of about $41 billion in federal funds will have gone to these activities by the end of fiscal year 2004—roughly double what was spent on these activities before 9-11, according to the report. For FY2005, the numbers will go up another 14 percent. (Read the full report at SM Online.)

Perhaps the most surprising number in the CBO report is the percentage that goes to intelligence and warning activities: A mere one percent. The share of the $47 billion requested for FY2005 that will go to this category remains 1 percent. One can draw some comfort from the fact that the bulk of the CIA’s budget is not included because it is directed at overseas activities and, therefore, technically not homeland security, according to the CBO, and the DoD’s security and counterrorism operations in response to the 9-11 attacks are similarly not part of the calculation. Still, the numbers do include intelligence operations at the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI and given that most experts within and outside of government have repeatedly highlighted the importance of improving intelligence as a means of preventing future attacks, it would be fair to question whether one percent of the nonclassified homeland security pie is sufficient.

Of course, money is only part of the problem when it comes to intelligence. Of equal or greater concern is how intelligence efforts are structured. Better intelligence collection will only help in the end if that intelligence, once gathered, is properly analyzed and shared with appropriate parties. Since 9-11, changes have been made to facilitate better cooperation among agencies such as the FBI and the CIA. And the Department of Homeland Security has attempted to improve cooperation and coordination through the formation of several new intelligence bodies. In this month’s cover feature, Senior Editor Teresa Anderson gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at one of these new intelligence operations, the Transportation Security Coordination Center (TSCC). The article shows how the TSCC attempts to monitor hundreds of commercial airports and thousands of miles of rail and pipelines, and how its efforts fit into the government’s larger intelligence-gathering effort.

Also this month, Senior Editor Michael A. Gips examines the controversy surrounding the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA’s) proposed CAPPS (Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System) II program. The article examines whether this attempt to categorize passengers according to risk to improve security and streamline screening at airports will work—or even get off the ground.

One if by land, two if by sea was the watchword of the Minutemen in the American revolution. As the attack on the U.S.S. Cole and the more recent attack on an oil terminal at  port in Iraq have shown, waterways have become yet another battleground in the fight against terrorists. In the third feature in this month’s special focus on homeland security and transportation, Ali Koknar, a counterterrorism consultant, discusses the challenges of defending the maritime security.

These articles give but a glimpse into the multifaceted efforts underway to fight the terrorist threat. They help to show why, whatever else homeland security is, it is clearly no small task.

Sherry L. Harowitz
Editor-in-Chief
sharowitz@asisonline.org

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